John Moses Browning was born in Ogden, Utah on January 23, 1855. He is one of the most prominent firearm designers in US history. John worked in his father’s gunsmith shop where he learned the basic principles of both engineering and manufacturing. His father – Johnathan Browning – encouraged him to experiment with new ideas.
First Rifle Design
The first weapon John Browning developed was a single-shot rifle with a falling block action design. Soon after, Browning began to produce this firearm at a manufacturing operations plant he opened. As rifle samples rolled off the line, Winchester Repeating Arms Company – seeing Browning as possible competition -took an interest and sent someone to assess the rifle. Impressed with what they discovered, Winchester purchased the rifle design.
Browning and Winchester Collaborate
Beginning in 1883, Browning and Winchester worked together on a number of rifles and shotguns. Their partnership proved to be successful, but ended when Browning designed and proposed a semi-automatic shotgun. When Browning presented this to Winchester, he proposed a change to the customary ‘single fee payment’ with licensing being given exclusively to Winchester. Instead, Browning was asking for royalty fees which would be based on unit sales, in lieu of the single upfront fee payment. The offer was rejected.
Browning began looking outside Winchester, but when the president of Remington Arms died prior to Browning offering them a proposal for this newly designed gun, he began looking overseas manufacturers to produce his shotgun. He turned to Belgium’s Fabrique Nationale de Herstal, with whom he had previously negotiated firearms licenses. The Belgium company accepted his proposal and production began. The shotgun was named the Browning Auto-5. The Browning Auto-5 became a very popular 20th Century shotgun. Shortly after the success of the Browning Auto-5, Winchester began to shift their reliance on Browning, which later proved to be the beginning of the end of their relationship.
Other Noted Accomplishments
Though Browning influenced just about every firearm category with his various designs, his most famous was no doubt the M1911 pistol. Some additional noted accomplishments include the Browning. 50cal machine gun, the Browning Automatic rifle and the aforementioned Browning Auto-5.
Nearly a decade later, most of Browning’s designs remain relatively unchanged. The first of his 128 gun patents came at the age of 24. He continued to design products up until his death in 1926. In fact, John Moses Browning died of a heart attack as he worked on a self-loading pistol design idea for Fabrique Nationale de Herstal, a design which was eventually completed in 1935 by a Belgium designer named Dieudonne Saive.